Mike Affleck & Sam Keller
While Andrew Walter is the clear #1 quarterback, many believe his current backups don't have the arm strength to effectively run Koetter's offense. The offense is extremely difficult to learn but if one of these young talents gets a grasp of it, they could find themselves as #16's backup.
It's not known right now if Green will red shirt or not, but the expectations for this young corner are higher than any other DB to join ASU. Green showed well against top California talent and will be given the chance to win the spot across from RJ Oliver. He has future star written all over him, but will his legacy start this year?
This huge DT from Texas was not going to redshirt last year. Unfortunately, he had an injury that would not allow him to play the whole season and consequently was granted another year of eligibility. On top of that, his mother tragically passed away this spring, and he missed all of spring ball. That being said, Likio is a physical specimen unlike any other on the Devils' roster, and was seen lighting up the scout team last year. With the loss of Terrell Suggs, and new starters at LB, ASU will be relying heavily on their DT play. Look for Likio to make a huge impact on the two-deep.
Many valley fans held their breath last winter until Caldwell announced his decision to his father's ASU legacy. KC has already been said to have some of the best hands of any DL coach Guy has seen, and his superior physical conditioning already had him primed to play this season. Combine that with the early departure of Suggs and Ricky Parker's move to DT - Caldwell becomes a necessity at DE.
Because he enrolled in January and participated in spring practice, it is hoped he will have a similar impact that Shane Jones did last season at DT. GR is a wide body, who gets a nice push up the middle. For many of the same reasons discussed with Likio, Reininger will be looked upon to contribute from the 1st game.
This all world speedster will be given every chance to win the open cornerback spot. He is a physical player, with one of the fastest 40 times in the country. Many JC players struggle to make the transition to D1 ball in their first year. McKenzie's ability to grasp the schemes will determine his playing time. He could also see time returning kicks.
Aaron Austin & Jamal Lewis
Both of these players were able to make an impression in spring ball. Lewis, coming off a red shirt year, found the end zone several times in the spring, and appears to be a very fluid vertical stretch from the TE position. He is athletic enough to even line up as a WR from time to time. Austin is a world-class talent who spent last season working academically. He was very raw in the spring, while working hard to learn all of the schemes. Once he has the system down, the sky appears to be the limit, as he possesses the rare size, speed and power you want in a TE. The Devils are looking for a consistent threat to make their offense even more dynamic.
Many were surprised that Terry Richardson redshirted last year. As he got in better shape, it became tough for the coaches to keep him redshirted. Richardson is a wonderful collection of size, speed, athleticism and fluidity. He was making great adjustments on balls in the spring, and is a dynamic enough playmaker, that coaches were letting him get looks at returns. Everyone knows that now that Shaun MacDonald has gone on to the pros his production must be picked up. While no one single receiver can do what he did, Richardson is the early leader to give opposing defensive coordinators fits.
Justin Burks & Jordan "BAM" Hill
The Sun Devils graduated their three starting linebackers from last year. While they were effective, they didn't appear to have the necessary athleticism to run the 4-2-5 defense. Justin Burks is a five-star JC recruit who appears to have an NFL future ahead of him. He was working with the starters by the end of spring ball, and after more condition, weights and study sessions, should be ready to have a great impact come Sept. 5th. It was difficult to tell where Hill will fit into this season's plans. He is a lot bigger than most of the Devils' linebackers and there are questions about his ability to play in the 4-2. He did tear up the scout team last year, and has an obvious role as MLB when the team goes to the conventional 4-3 scheme. With early tests against Iowa and Oregon State on the road, BAM figures to get a lot of playing time trying to shut down talented opposing running backs.
As witnessed by last year's loss to North Carolina, the kicking game can easily impact the outcome. The coaches place a huge importance on special teams play, and Ainsworth's ability to step up and connect right away might be the most important part of next season. He will have to hit pressure field goals against hostile crowds, in front of the home crowds, and probably handle ASU's kickoffs. This is a lot to ask of a true freshman, but if anyone has the talent to do so, it is Ainsworth.
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